My version of the Almost Famous record discovery scene
by rick olivares
In the film “Almost Famous”, there is a scene when a young William Miller (played by Michael Angarano with the older persona portrayed with aplomb by Patrick Fugit) pulls out a bag from under his bed. His older sister, Anita, has bequeathed her rock records to him with the promise that they will change his life and one day he will be cool.
As young William pulls out the records, there is a sense of wonder and amazement, of discovery. The anticipation of the music to come when the stylus hits the vinyl grooves. And how your life is transported to another time, another place.
The records --- the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”, the Rolling Stones’ “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)” and “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out”, Led Zeppelin II, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Axis Bold as Love”, Cream’s “Wheels of Fire”, Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”, Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde”, and the Who’s “Tommy” – spoke volumes of Crowe’s younger days, the music that turned him on, and created a life-long love affair with music that even outlast his marriage.
In the full un-edited scene there are a total of 12 records shown with the others being James Taylor’s “Sweet baby James”; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Déjà Vu”; and Neil Young’s “Live at the Los Angeles Music Center”. There was another cut where instead of CSN&Y, it was CSN’s debut album.
I totally empathized with the scene. I saw myself in young William Miller as music took ahold of my senses and turned me inside out. Music was my Molotov cocktail to the world.
My own nine records – go count Crowe’s list that was shown from that particular scene – are wholly different. He bought his records in the early 70s while I began buying in the late 70s.
As for buying… I should say that I was in Sixth Grade when I started buying records. I would save a portion of my allowance, collect soda bottle deposits, and do my classmates’ homework for a small fee just to buy the records I wanted. That meant not getting them right away but it taught me the value of hard work and being resourceful.
Here’s my 12 records that I would insert in that bag. And so in no particular order…
Led Zeppelin III – Led Zeppelin. I remember where I was when I first heard “The Immigrant Song”. A couple of neighbors (Ronald and Fritz wherever you are, thanks) of a cousin of mine who had become friends were so into music. I wasn’t into Led Zeppelin though I had heard their music. When they played me “The Immigrant Song” – well, if I could have cussed back then, I would have. It totally grabbed me. Although I am not a big fan of the album as it had more of a folk-ish bent. This despite the howling vocals and sense of impending doom of “The Immigrant Song” and the slow introspection of “Celebration Day” and “Tangerine” that made it a somewhat acceptable listen.
Dance Craze: The Best of British Ska… Live! – Various Artists. This was my introduction to ska music. I must have played this record to death wearing out its grooves with constant and non-stop play. “Concrete Jungle”, the first track, was like a blow to my gut. It set me on fire. The opening drums and handclaps was a great lead off and it sent me dancing. And to think that I don’t dance.
It was the first time I heard of the term “concrete jungle” applied to a city. I was hooked. Furthermore, I became even more inquisitive. The political nature of some of the songs made me look into what was going on in Britain.
The songs and the bands also allowed me to dig back into rock steady and dub… and made me fall in love with reggae (not right away though).
What else? I dressed up in a Two-Tone manner. My Specials shirt was a prized possession for a young kid in me who really had to work and save to buy these records. I wish I still had that old Philippine pressing of the album although I have the American and Japan pressings of the album.
The Best of Punk and New Wave Rock Vol.1 – Various Artists. It sounds odd that there are compilation albums here. But you have to understand life in Manila in the 1970s and 1980s. Record companies were unsure how local audiences would react? Would they buy the records? They sure did. In fact, it spawned a second volume. Apparently, this compilation (made in Taiwan or Hong Kong) was meant for an Asian audience and wasn’t released elsewhere. The only band I knew then was the Sex Pistols but it introduced me to the Ruts, the Skids, the Flying Lizards, XTC, and Magazine among others. I lost the album over time and made finding this a priority. It took years but I managed to snag one.
Owning this was like being subversive. My parents frowned upon rock music (heavy metal and punk in particular). It was seen as nihilistic (maybe the Pistols and the Clash were but not the Ramones who kicked off the music).
I was into Heavy Metal during this time. Metal at this time seemed to be heavily influenced by fantasy books such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Even prog rock was into long songs that lasted seemingly half an hour. Punk really rocked and in short, angry bursts. I was hitting my teens and rebelled against my parents who were strict. The music appealed to me and it remains a strong favorite to this day.
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen. Rolling Stone magazine (Dave Marsh in particular) raved about him. Creem didn’t. So I owed it upon myself to check out the Boss. Born to Run was the first Springsteen album I picked up and it blew me away with the intensity in spite of being a mere studio recording and not a live performance. Little did I know that Springsteen and the E Street Band translated so well into live performances. And the Dylanesque lyrics -- the bigness of the words, the sound, there was romance and mystery. Songs from the neighborhood. All from another Beat Generation-inspired songwriter. Needless to say, I got into Springsteen immediately.
Aside from the title track, the magnificence, majesty, and ambitiousness of “Jungleland” with the Clarence Clemons solo was something that seemed to have come out of Loisaida. It had me thinking of the West Side Story. Playing the song today has the same effect on me as it did all those years ago. It blows me away. And I love my Springsteen records.
The B-52s self-titled debut. When this came out in 1979, it stood out. They sounded like no one. It had the camp of the 1960s but with a punk sensibility. The ban d didn’t take themselves seriously either and the result was a fun listen. Then the hipsters came in and played “Rock Lobster” ad infinitum to death and I began to develop an aversion to their music. When the B-52s changed gears into a more Talking Heads-type of oddity, the hipsters left (until Whammy came out). But through the years, I remained a fan and still play it a lot to this day.
End of the Century – Ramones. The first Ramones record and punk record that wasn’t a compilation album that I ever owned. And it was produced by the legendary Phil Spector. I knew what was coming –punk rock with a wall of sound – but that hardly prepared me for the sonic fury. And when the DJ intro of “This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio and…” announced the coming of the thunder… bam!
… I still know all the lyrics by heart. To this day.
The Clash self-titled debut. If Dance Craze piqued my interest in Jamaican music, the Clash’s debut added fuel to the fire. For a punk band – their music was influenced not only by Jamaican music but also old time rock music. The Ramones were also influenced by 50s rock music but it wasn’t overt perhaps until End of the Century. The Clash, wore their heart on their sleeves. The re-make of Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves” was a catalyst for that. I mean, who was Junior Murvin? So I dug back. The fusion of punk and reggae/dub was powerful. I had previously heard of the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law” but the Clash’s version was angry.
This was a protest record. A declaration of anger and dissatisfaction. And it spoke volumes to me.
War – U2. For me, U2 started out as a magazine article. I read about them in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine around the time of the release of their debut, Boy. I did manage to get Boy a year after its release and as much as I loved it, it didn’t have the impact on me that War did. It helped that MTV was on the air and the video of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with the mist and red light of the show at Red Rocks permeated itself in my brain.
There was a raw and gritty feel to this album. And the tension. The explosiveness. Yet, there were moments when the album showcased its soul and somewhat tender side with “Surrender” and “Two Hearts Beat as One”. And the way it ended with “40” …. that has to be one of the all-time great closers.
The album has a gatefold with the band in the snow. I can’t think of “New Year’s Day” without thinking of snow and tank battles! The picture of the band on a snow covered mountainside is an awesome picture. U2 totally understood the power of imagery to go with the songs.
Kahit Anong Mangyari – Juan De La Cruz Band. The first Filipino record that I ever bought (not owned because I had a few given to me by my father). The album clearly teemed with the punk and new wave influence of the times. And I loved this to pieces.
Now that’s nine.
If I am to add three more (to make up the original 12 records showed in the uncut version of the scene from Almost Famous, here is what I will add:
Wave - Patti Smith Group. I was a kid when I first heard the Patti Smith Group. PSG’s music great appealed to me because of Patti’s penchant for poetry. She was from the Beat Generation that I adored completely. I was heavily into poetry during this time and wrote a lot of it (in fact, I still have most of it). I got Wave before I was able to pick up a copy of Easter so that is why this appears.
The moment the stylus hit the opening track “Frederick” that was Patti’s ode to her bandmate and future husband Fred “Sonic” Smith, I was entranced. It was also equal parts a prayer. God, I wanted to make love to Patti Smith.
Kiss Alive II – Kiss. If you were a child in the 1970s and listened to rock music, chances are you got into Kiss. I did and they were for many years my favorite band until U2, the Smiths, and the Style Council came along. Their music translated so well into live performances. “God of Thunder” just blew me away. The pictures of Gene Simmons spitting blood! Wow. Interestingly, after I lost all my records through the years, I have yet to replace any of them even if I have picked up many of the records of my youth. But Alive II holds such a great place in my younger self’s heart.
Running on Empty – Jackson Browne. Growing up during this time in Manila, many of the writers of Jingle magazine – the one music magazine in the country – swore by Jackson Browne and this particular album. So, yes, I bought it. And loved it. The title track remains one of the best driving songs to this day. At least, in my opinion.
So if you want to know the records of my younger days right before the end of my high school years, these are the albums.